Dean's Message
Fall 2015 No.27
We Love Flying High
The School of Engineering is rolling forward students’ dreams to reach for the skies. Three aerospace enthusiasts reveal how
Michelle Jia Ying Lee
BEng, Mechanical Engineering (2015)
Graduate Engineer, Cathay Pacific
Michelle (fourth from right, back row) and the “Inspiration” team.
Photo credit: Airport Authority Hong Kong
I am passionate about aviation and chose to study Mechanical Engineering, as the subject was then the closest to aerospace engineering available in Hong Kong. In my final year, I was one of a team of five undergraduates that came second in a nationwide light sports aircraft design competition organized by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). Our design, “Soaring Dragon”, was a two-seater amphibious aircraft and we had to compete against over 150 teams of master’s and doctoral students. 
I also had the opportunity to take part in international competitions such as Airbus Fly Your Ideas and exchange programs to Germany and Beijing, where I attended courses furthering my interest in aerospace. However, it was when I joined a one-year internship at Boeing, Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Aero Engine Services Limited (HAESL) that I truly confirmed my passion for aviation.
As a Graduate Engineer at Cathay Pacific, I am rotating within the Engineering Department to learn what it takes to ensure the safe operation of over 200 aircraft. Working for an airline makes you feel at the heart of the industry, where you get to decide on the aircraft configuration before manufacturing, plan for the right suppliers, ensure compliance, and much more.
My proudest project to date is being part of B-KOO “Inspiration” – the first homebuilt aircraft certified to fly under Hong Kong registration – which successfully took off from Hong Kong International Airport on November 15, 2015. The kit-built RV-8 single-engine aircraft was designed by Van’s Aircraft Inc, and is one of the most popular amateur-built planes.
This project began as one pilot’s dream to build a plane locally and fly it around the globe. Along the way, hundreds of secondary students from St Paul’s Convent School (also my alma mater) became involved in its construction. Currently, the project team of dedicated pilots and engineers (including HKUST alumni!) is preparing for a series of test flights and the round-the-world trip that will start and end in Hong Kong.
I had never been truly motivated until I started working on planes. There is never a dull moment because there is just so much to learn in this field – the perfect example of doing what you love, and loving what you do.
Joanne Yan Yu Lai
BEng, Aerospace Engineering (2018)
Recipient of Dean of Engineering Scholarship 2014-15
I was really thrilled to find out I would be one of the first batch of students to be admitted to HKUST’s Aerospace Engineering major as it has always been my dream to become a professional in this field. In my first semester, I enrolled in several fundamental courses with other students from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. These were not specific to aerospace and aeronautics but have provided a crucial foundation for my higher-level studies. I am looking forward to tackling subjects such as Aircraft Structure and Aerodynamics in the future, and working hard to strengthen my basic knowledge in preparation for these harder courses.
I have dreamt of being an aircraft maintenance engineer since I was young. It amazes me that such huge planes can fly through the air and carry so many passengers. Learning about the care required to design a machine that combines so many small but essential components is also fascinating. Many people dream of sitting in the pilot’s seat, with its extraordinary bird’s eye view of the world. However, I am more interested in the technology and mechanics operating behind the scenes, and ensuring the safety of every aircraft and its passengers.
To widen my perspective of the aviation industry, I am currently taking part in the Aircraft Engineer Development Scheme, a project organized by the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers and supported by Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co Ltd (HAECO). The scheme has given me valuable insight and experience in numerous ways. These include site visits to aviation-related organizations, such as the Government Flying Service and Cathay Pacific, networking with professionals in the aircraft maintenance field, and facilitating a two-week on-the-job training program at HAECO last summer.
I am also a student member of the Royal Aeronautical Society, which holds monthly evening lectures and invites professionals to speak on more technical topics. While some parts of the discussion involve specialist knowledge, these talks have helped me to deepen my understanding of aviation.
Mayank Kumar
BEng, Mechanical Engineering (2017)
Engineering Student Ambassador 2014-15
Since childhood, the stunning speeds at which aircraft traverse the sky and the heights they achieve have appeared a captivating enigma to me. This puzzle became an inseparable part of my life and I began to see my future centering on aeronautics. With the opportunity to study at HKUST’s School of Engineering and the range of fields it opened up, I began to look for the way to achieve my dream. Being part of the Aeronautics Interest Group Model Aircraft Team and taking part in the prestigious American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) 2014 Design/Build/Fly Competition in Kansas in the United States proved the perfect opening. I led the sub-team that was responsible for writing the design report and also served as the team’s strategy manager. 
The competition brought many memorable experiences, which will remain in the team’s minds and hearts forever. For me, though, the most outstanding moment was seeing our aircraft actually fly. After long days and sleepless nights spent building it, nothing could be as rewarding as this. 
Given the windy conditions on the day of the competition, it was a nerve-wracking time watching our aircraft roll down the runway. While our model had been well tested under normal wind conditions in Hong Kong, we had no idea if it would withstand the Wichita winds. As the power increased, all our hearts skipped a beat. Would it take off? 
Tilting as it went, the aircraft did get airborne to huge cheers from all the spectators. With every glide and turn made against the gusty wind, the team’s hard work seemed to be paying off. Although it was the aircraft in the air, I felt as if it was my own first flight as I had contributed to making it fly. 
After such a momentous year with the Model Aircraft Team, I furthered my interest by spending Summer 2015 at Harvard University as part of a design internship during which we built drones to carry local deliveries. I don’t know what I am going to do in the future. But one thing is certain. If I get to spend my life with aircraft, I will consider myself successful. 
Mayank (first right) and his teammates in the Harvard-HKUST Summer Research Program.